Kerry calls on Abbas to make "tough decisions" on peace with Israel
Kerry was key in the revival of the peace talks last year, and has worked hard to make both delegations see eye-to-eye, despite their major differences. (AFP/File)
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to work hard to resolve big differences with the Israelis ahead of a “pivotal” time for the peace talks.
The peace talks were kick started after a three-year pause in July last year, but Israeli and Palestinian leaders and delegations have failed to make any major progress so far despite a looming deadline for a “framework agreement”. According to Agence France Presse, at every stage of the negotiations Israel has “kicked up more obstacles to a peace deal that would end decades of conflict”.
A senior State Department official announced that ahead of Abbas’ meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday in Washington, Kerry had a "frank and productive discussion" with the Palestinian leader, AFP reported.
"The secretary thanked President Abbas for his steadfast leadership and partnership over the past few months and encouraged him to make the tough decisions that will be necessary in the weeks ahead," the official said, according to AFP.
"He [Kerry] also reiterated that we are at a pivotal time in the negotiations and while these issues have decades of history behind them, neither party should let tough political decisions at this stage stand in the way of a lasting peace," AFP reported.
In talks with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said that tough decisions must be made to ensure the framework agreement’s deadline of April 29 is met. The framework is supposed to act as a guide on final status negotiations, but it seems unlikely either side will make significant concessions before then.
It’s ongoing illegal settlement activity and Israel’s latest demand – that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state – may jeopardize the talks. Abbas has categorically refused to submit to this, and Kerry rejected Netanyahu’s emphasis on the matter ahead of the Palestinian leader’s visit to the U.S.
Speaking to AFP, the State Department official said Kerry and his peace talks team would continue to work with both sides to "narrow the gaps" over the coming days.